BLUE RIVER, Ore. - About 20 students from McKenzie Middle School will get a view of an old-growth forest from the top down later this month, after boldly ascending high into the tree canopy on a thin rope with special climbing gear - pretty heady stuff for an eighth-grader.

The event is hoped to be a "transformational" outdoor experience for the students, organizers say, and help them appreciate the wonder of the outdoor world as well as their own capabilities - like doing some creative writing while they relax in a "tree boat" way, way, up in the air.

The exercise will take place May 28-29 at the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest near Blue River, Ore.

It's made possible by a collaboration of Oregon State University, the University of Oregon, and the U.S. Forest Service, with funding from a private donation to the OSU Foundation and donations of time from the Pacific Tree Climbing Institute. Additional donations to the Andrews Forest Fund would allow the program to be continued in the future, organizers say.

"Our goal is to teach and inspire young students using tree climbing adventures, science education and confidence-building activities," said Kari O'Connell, director of the Andrews Forest, a part of the nation's Long Term Ecological Research Program that is supported by the National Science Foundation.

"Climbing several stories high into an old-growth canopy is a uniquely transcendental experience."

This is the third year that the Pacific Tree Climbing Institute has donated time and equipment to help provide this type of adventure to area students. Undergraduate students in the Environmental Leadership Program at the University of Oregon will also lead ecological activities and lessons in the surrounding forest, while other students practice single-rope climbing techniques and learn safety rules.

The H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest is cooperatively managed by the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, Oregon State University, and the Willamette National Forest. It is dedicated to long-term study of complex forest and stream ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest, development of innovative and collaborative approaches to management of forests and watersheds, and communication of findings to land managers, researchers, policymakers, teachers, students, and the public.

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Kari O’Connell,